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Understanding Insurability

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Definitions, Research Last Updated: 08/04/2011

What insurability is, how it’s determined for both the vehicle and the driver, and the differences in insurability from company to company.

Insurability for a Sports Car

Check with your agent to make sure this baby is insurable.

As part of the larger property and casualty line of insurance products, auto insurance shares some basic characteristics with other forms of insurance. One of these characteristics is insurability.

What is insurability, and how does it impact you the auto insurance consumer?

At a basic level, if an insurance company deems a certain risk to be acceptable to its business, it is considered insurable. Otherwise, the risk is considered uninsurable and therefore ineligible for coverage.

This is true regardless of whether you’re talking about auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, life insurance or any other line of insurance you care to name.

When it comes to auto insurance, insurability is dependent on two factors: the auto and the driver. Both must be deemed insurable before an auto insurance policy can be written. This is accomplished in the underwriting process.

Insuring the Auto Itself

With most auto insurance companies, the auto meets insurability requirements if it is built by a recognized manufacturer and has a vehicle identification number, or VIN. This includes the vast majority of cars on the road today. Autos that do not meet insurability requirements with most standard companies typically include kit cars, exotic sport cars and models with particularly poor safety ratings. Your insurance agent will be able to tell you if your vehicle meets insurability requirements, but barring unusual circumstances you’re probably in good shape.

Model year does not have much of an effect on insurability itself, but it does have an impact on overall premium. For the most part, newer vehicles cost more to insure than older vehicles all other things equal.

Trailers and RVs are subject to similar insurability requirements, but remember that it is not possible to insure a trailer for full coverage. You can only get comprehensive and collision with them.

Insurability on the Driver

From an insurance carrier’s standpoint determining insurability on the vehicle itself is pretty easy. It’s either insurable or it’s not. Determining insurability on the driver, however, takes many variables into consideration. These include age, sex, marital status, driving history and past insurance history.

Further, if a vehicle is driven by multiple drivers then all drivers must be considered for insurability. Generally speaking, auto insurance on a vehicle is rated for the highest risk driver in any given group of drivers. This is why teenage drivers can cause their parents’ insurance premiums to dramatically increase.

Driver insurability is periodically reviewed by the company, and a driver may be dropped by the company if he or she no longer meets the company’s insurability requirements. Remember an insurance company can only drop a driver at renewal, so you may have time to shop around for a new policy if you find yourself uninsurable with your current company.

Driver insurability on commercial auto insurance policies takes into consideration a slightly different set of criteria. For example, drivers under 25 or over 74 are often deemed uninsurable on commercial policies regardless of other circumstances.

Insurability is Not Uniform

If your vehicle and/or you do not meet insurability requirements with one company, don’t fret. One company’s definition of insurability is always at least slightly different than another’s. Chances are there is a company out there that will take you. While many standard auto insurance companies shy away from kit cars and sports cars, there are other auto insurance carriers that specialize in them. Your agent may have access to one of these companies through a brokerage.

If a standard insurance company says you’re uninsurable, a non-standard or high risk company will probably take you instead. You might have to get an SR-22 or join an assigned risk pool to get insured, but auto insurance is available for just about anyone driving just about anything.

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W. Lane Startin

Lane is a former insurance agent with two well-known and highly rated companies. He left the world of insurance sales to return to his first love, writing. He enjoys helping people unravel the intricacies of insurance without the bias created by working for commission. He's a graduate of Idaho State University and by extension a long-suffering Bengals fan. Lane blogs at Car Insurance Guidebook.

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